I don’t mind when Josh makes us go two hours out of our way to see the bridge in Tennessee. We are driving to the coast, trying to see the mountains, to see the edge of the world. Trying to see something other than our own dull faces in the toothpasted mirror and the water damaged walls of our apartment. We have been living there too-long, marinating in our own too-sad thoughts and feeling much too-old and too-sorry for ourselves for our barely begun thirties.
The night before, I got into bed early to wait. I watched the light fade outside our bedroom window until there was only the dim green buzz from the clock radio. Only when the streetlights began to turn off, the sun pushing a grey cap across the sky, did the door scratch open.
When he came into the room, thin milk of a person carried by the weak morning light, I asked him to go on a drive. His eyes settled on my knuckles, whitened against the gripped sheets, and he agreed. In these early hours, we left.
We first met in college. We first kissed driving back to campus from a lackluster movie. I had stepped in gum in the theatre, spilled my drink down the front of his shirt as the credits rolled darkly across us. He found some paper towels while I stared down at my shoes, blood pounding at my cheeks. Glancing up, I saw him smiling to one corner of his mouth. He bent close to my ear as I helped him blot the spreading stains.
“I want to show you something.”
He took me to a bridge on the edge of campus, an old, breaking thing. That was the first time I saw it. Well, no. I’d crossed it hundreds of times, back and forth to classes on Old Campus. But that was the first time I saw Josh see it.
I forgot entirely about the sticking pull on my left foot, the setting stains on his shirt. I could see only the light blooming out of him, the sheer wonder budding within him like a new spring. Under that great suspension, he offered me his hand.
My eyes are heavy. We haven’t made it far, and I can tell by the way his hands grasp the steering wheel that he is trying to stay awake as well. Still, we don’t speak with each other. We don’t listen to the radio.
All I want is this bridge, this great span of connection. I want to see it the way that he does—to be taken away from myself in the wonder of its suspension, the singularity by which it ferries bodies to a second space in a single moment, the brevity of its transition.
When we arrive at the arches, cranes are reaching across them with long wild necks. Support beams have been placed across the base. I watch as Josh’s grip on the wheel loosens and his eyes widen in the glow of the bridge, looking years younger, looking his own age. His face lights up, and I can see that he’s experiencing it again: something that distracts him from the dark edges of his skull, the wearied lines of his own fitful mind.
My mind is caught between the cars that line the road waiting for clearance, piling up in the mid-morning construction traffic. Something hard and metallic shifts in me like a bending fender. When he reaches to give me his hand, I do not take it.
Sarah Perret-Goluboff is a Chicago-based writer. She works for an educational non-profit and was previously an editorial assistant at Curbside Splendor Publishing. Her writing can be found in Bridge Eight Press.